I first met Paddy in a French airport lounge during the 1998 World Cup.
He was covering the competition for the Financial Times. He seemed to me to be a thoroughly decent and charming bloke, a view confirmed a few years later when I cheekily asked him to get me a ticket for the Champions League final and he came up with the goods.
He had by then moved from the FT to work for Sir Alex Ferguson. Being chief spin doctor to one of the most loved and hated football teams in Britain is not an easy job. For a start, the Fergie way of dealing with the media, brilliantly documented in Michael Crick's biography, The Boss: the Many Sides of Alex Ferguson, makes Alastair Campbell look like an angel.
Part of the Manchester United strategy has been to make people hate it, and this includes the media. Is it any wonder Harverson became known by football hacks as 'the director of non-communications'?
Working for the future king will be a completely different experience.
Harverson has to make Prince Charlie popular.
Former royal spin doctor Mark Bolland, once PRWeek Professional of the Year, has given us a glimpse of just how difficult Harverson's job will be. The former Man Utd man is used to working for a very strong character, but Bolland believes Prince Charles to be 'very, very weak'. He rightly blames the Prince for allowing the Burrell trial to go ahead, with the resultant PR disaster for 'the firm'.
Working for a strong character makes the job of a spin doctor relatively easy. With Gordon Brown I knew exactly how far I could go. It's no coincidence that the best spinners worked for powerful people: Ingham for Thatcher, Campbell for Blair. Bolland was an exception. He did have extraordinary connections, however: how many spin doctors get to go on holiday with the editor of the News of the World?
When Prince Harry was exposed as a boozing drug-taker by the NoTW, Bolland managed to turn it into a 'caring father' story. I very much doubt if Harverson would be able to pull off the same trick, despite his undoubted talents. Indeed, I bet he has pissed off virtually every tabloid editor in his present job. I was sharing a few sherbets with the editor of the Sunday Mirror at a football writers' bash the other day and was astonished to learn that Harverson has 'blacked' the paper completely. Harverson was unrepentant: the paper had written something the club didn't like, so it was refusing to talk to its journalists.
The royal pack is not so reliant on the spin doctors as the football lot. They simply make things up. Mark Bolland identified another problem Harverson will face: the Royal Family is out of touch with reality. Most of those in the royal household think the Rovers Return is a special bus pass. They just don't live on the same planet as the rest of us.
So how will the new royal spinner make Prince Charles seem like a normal human being? He probably can't, so his best bet will be not to try. Visiting the set of Coronation Street won't make us believe the Prince is normal, just the victim of a silly PR stunt. The best thing Harverson could do is get Charlie to marry Camilla and persuade the Government to rid us of the minor royals. Tony Blair probably won't agree to the latter, but I know a man who will - Gordon Brown. A slimmed down monarchy will at least give us republicans less ammunition for attack and 'the firm' fewer PR disasters.